Greenwich Mean Time could drift to the US, minister warns
Time will become meaningless and people’s experience of night and day will change fundamentally if the world goes ahead with plans to scrap leap seconds, the science minister has warned.
Most people can’t tell the difference; GMT is solar time and currently universal coordinated time (UTC) is atomic, but is adjusted to keep in synch with the sun, because the earth’s rotation rate is a tiny bit slower than it used to be, and the broad trend is that it continues to slow. But even if these are no longer tied to each other, so what?
Without them atomic clocks, which are used as the basis of international time, would fall out of sync with the cycle of night and day. Nearly 800 years from now, the sun would reach its highest point at 1pm, rather than midday.
Right now, the sun doesn’t reach its highest point at noon for the vast majority of the population, and I’m not even worrying about all of us who experience daylight “saving” (or summer) time, where we shift our clocks forward an hour, so that this nominal noon effect actually does happen at 1 PM (without any apparent hysteria or crumbling of empires).
The sun is only overhead (or on a line going overhead) at noon if you are on the actual meridian for your time zone, and then it’s only overhead at noon on the solstices, as I have mentioned a couple of times before — the overhead sun on the meridian varies by ± 15 minutes, and most of us live elsewhere. Meaning that a) this isn’t an actual problem, and b) it will take 800 years before we reach as much skewing as we presently inflict upon ourselves.
“Going purely for an atomic clock option would lose contact with time as we experience. My view is that the relatively frequent but modest corrections are better than allowing a discrepancy to build up. Greenwich Mean Time would slowly move west towards America. I want to keep it in Britain.”
Official time (UTC) is kept by the international Bureau of Weights and measures in Paris. So this is just more hyperbole.